Oxidative modifications of low density lipoproteins (LDL) are now recognised as one of the major processes in atherogenesis. Various drugs, as well as a number of natural products, have been proposed to inhibit such processes. Among the naturally-occurring constituents of plants which appear to possess antioxidant activity are polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids. The aqueous extract of Vaccinium myrtillus is rich in such molecules. In this report, we describe the in vitro antioxidative potential of this extract on human LDL. The copper-induced oxidative modification of these lipoproteins was assessed using 1) measurement of oxidative resistance as determined by the lag-phase preceding conjugated diene formation; 2) quantification of the amount of lipoperoxides and thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances generated, and measurement of the modification in the net negative electrical charge of the lipoproteins, over a 7-hour time course experiment. Trace amounts of V myrtillus extract (15 to 20 micrograms/mL) induce statistically significant changes in the oxidation behaviour of LDL, which include 1) prolongation of the lag-phase of conjugated diene production (P < 0.01); 2) reduction in the formation of lipoperoxides and of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances up to 7 hours and especially between 1 and 5 hours (P < 0.01); and 3) inhibition of modification in the net negative charge of LDL. These results demonstrate that V myrtillus extract exerts potent protective action on LDL particles during in vitro copper-mediated oxidation. Calculation of IC50 values indicates that, on a molar basis, this extract may indeed be more potent than either ascorbic acid or butylated hydroxytoluene in the protection of LDL particles from oxidative stress.